As a member of Generation Y, I have had the unique experience of watching practically everyone I have ever met grow up via social media. I am now 26 years old, and my social media sites have made it abundantly clear that I am in the middle of the wedding phase of my life. It seems like every week there is another friend, family, or distant acquaintance that is getting hitched.
As members of the Fraternity/Sorority community at our college in northern California, my wife and I were part of a fairly tight knit social group. The expectation is that no matter the distance, you will stay brothers/sisters for life. When you join this group you are agreeing to be at each other's weddings, baby showers, and other major life events.
But what if your friend (more accurately you wife's friend who you don't really like that much anyways) has invited you both to her wedding in northern California, but you are now living in southern California? There are some serious economic decisions to be made. Do you make the 1.5 hour flight or the 8 hour drive? Do you pay for airport parking or the gas to drive up there? Do you have the patience to sit next to a fellow passenger who refuses to share the armrest, or stop 13 times at rest stops for your wife? In addition you find out that your work will have some extra shifts available for the impending holiday rush. What do you do? How deep is your loyalty and brotherly love?
When comparing the opportunity costs of different alternatives, I found that I could gift five times as much and still came out ahead if we stayed home! That sounded like a win/win to me. Granted I am ignoring the intangible "experience" opportunity cost that would be given up by skipping the event. However from a purely economic standpoint I would be saving at least $360 ($610 - $250) and they would be gaining $400 ($500 - $100)! After all, who wouldn't want to get a card saying "Sorry we couldn't make it, congrats and here's $500"? They wouldn't even notice we were missing right?
Although my wife was tempted, my last-ditch attempts to avoid a trek north were rejected by her. The opportunity cost of missing the wedding and becoming social pariahs apparently outweighed the money we would save. In the end we chose to drive and had an enjoyable trip…even though the food at the wedding was terrible.
- Seth Allyn is an MBA candidate at the University of Memphis, Tennessee.